Voters narrowly pass $7 million school bond issue

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By Traci Chapman

In an election where every vote truly counted, a $7 million Mustang Public School bond issue passed by less than five votes.

Two thousand eight hundred thirty-one people participated in the Tuesday election. Of those, 1,701 voted in favor of the proposal, while 1,130 voters rejected it. School bond issues require a 60 percent majority by state law; election board officials confirmed Tuesday that meant at least 1,698 had to vote in favor of the issue for it to pass.

Although turnout was better for the proposal than a November 2013 election, a minority of those registered to vote living in Mustang School District participated in the decision. Election board records revealed more than 25,220 voters were registered to vote Tuesday; less than 12 percent of those people did so.

With the proposal’s passage, school officials will move forward with several improvements to sites throughout the district, as well as upgrades to extracurricular programs and technology. Those improvements are as follows:

Technology – $1.6 million

Mustang Superintendent Sean McDaniel said “technology infrastructure, equipment and software for classrooms and schools” include smartboards, 3-D printers, tablets, laptops, iPads and lab equipment for use district-wide in its Science, Technology, Engineering and Math – STEM – program.

Other courses benefiting from these funds would be robotics and engineering courses, he said. Mustang High School students have performed well in robotics competitions held this year, an area that has gained interest in recent years, officials said.

Storm shelters – $1 million

Shelters at Mustang Education Center and Mustang High School are slated under the issue. While each school has refuge areas, older sites do not have shelters certified by Federal Emergency Management Agency, McDaniel said. The cost to build FEMA-certified shelters in older school sites, such as Mustang Elementary School, would be cost-prohibitive, officials said. That school does have a basement that has been historically used to shelter students during storms.

School improvement – $300,000

Lakehoma and Mustang elementary schools are set to see $200,000 in upgraded playground equipment, while $100,000 was allocated to upgrade lighting at Trails Elementary School and Mustang North Middle School.

Land acquisition –$800,000

Eight hundred thousand dollars was listed for acquisition of land for future construction of new schools or other buildings in the south and central areas of the district.

Extracurricular activities funds

The bulk of funding in the $7 million proposal would be used for extracurricular activities. Those programs broke out as follows:

  • $375,000 for district “arts programs.” This would include instruments, stage lighting, software and band uniforms.
  • $300,000 for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a new barn for the agricultural education program.” The district’s barn, utilized by FFA and 4-H students, is located at 7916 South County Line Road.
  • $1.225 million for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a softball training facility for use by the MHS softball and baseball teams.”
  • $1.4 million for “constructing, equipping and furnishing a new ROTC training and instructional center” at Mustang High School.

More than 200 students participate in Mustang High School’s band program alone, with hundreds more taking middle-school level classes, as well as drama, choir and other arts activities, officials said. The $375,000 would help fund needs for lighting, uniforms, instruments and other items used by those individuals.

McDaniel said about 200 students currently participate in the district’s agriculture programs, a number which has caused issues because of a 37-year-old barn that is not suited to that level of activity.

Sean McDaniel

Sean McDaniel

Because of the aged barn and lack of space, the district has been forced to turn away students interested in participating in the program, the superintendent said. It has also meant that other needed activities – like welding stations, lab areas and needed equipment – must go by the wayside.

“AgEd teaches many life skills, from leadership to discipline to a good work ethic,” McDaniel said. “Our kids need more space.”

With Mustang competing in 6A classification and with Mustang High School listed as the largest high school in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area, an expansion of the district’s baseball complex was essential, the superintendent said.

“Because of its size, only four to six kids at a time can use the facility,” McDaniel said. “A new facility would allow 25 to 30 kids to use the facility at one time and would provide the same opportunities for our kids as other 6A programs provide for theirs.

Like the district’s agriculture education program, Junior ROTC is an area that has been underfunded, with students utilizing three classrooms at Mustang High School, as well as an old physical education building, McDaniel said. The $1.4 million JROTC housing included a training area, offices, classrooms and storage, McDaniel said.

(Rendering/courtesy Mustang Public Schools)

(Rendering/courtesy Mustang Public Schools)

Tax consequences for the bond issue would be minimal due to other bond retirement, officials said.

“When you look at the fact these improvements come at such a low cost, it just makes sense,” Mustang Board of Education President Chad Fulton said earlier this year.